Sort-of-Registered Architects

On an unrelated visit to the New Zealand Registered Architect’s Board website (I have at some point, I think, declared that I will never be a Registered Architect), I was drawn to a bold Notice, which grabbed both my attention and imagination, it reads:


Annual Certificate of Registration invoices were mailed out on 15 May 2009. Payment is due by 20 June. 

Please note that, despite the economic downturn, the NZRAB cannot accept payment by instalments. Architects who cannot pay should consider taking voluntary suspension. As soon as they find work again, they can revive their full registration. This is done very quickly, once payment has been received.”  [NB, the cost of the ACR is $551.25]


This is obviously a horrible situation for some Registered Architects, who may be forced to suspend their registration, and risk future employment.  The effects could be drastic.

 After recently attending a presentation by Geoff Manaugh (of the prolific I felt compelled to ponder in a speculative manner, both conservatively, and perhaps a bit radically.


The chain of effects branches out in all sorts of directions.  Firstly, if the population of Registered Architects plummets, will the Registered Survivors pounce on all the Registered Work?  Will the Registered Survivors (most predictably the handful of larger offices in New Zealand) gain an even greater monopoly of project procurement, escalating an already apparent homogeneity across New Zealand’s larger projects?  Will larger practices cull their registrations, leaving a Grand Master Registrant to sign each project off, and might the GMR be a scapegoat, or a powerhouse?

For the Voluntarily Suspended, what will practice life be like?  What might be the legal risks of a temporary sojourn from the tribe?  What about having to change all your letterheads and business cards, to remove the coveted “Registered” from your professional status?

In a reverse swing of fate, will the lost fees from the Suspended cripple the NZRAB?  Will architects be forced to gather in their community cliques, re-inventing new codes and costumes to signal their allegiance to the Architects Act?  These factions could incite highly competitive and wonderfully innovative design practices, fighting over project as if it were the last (which it could be)…

I am in the end inconclusive about whether less Registered Architects might be a good thing, or an indifferent thing.  I just haven’t met enough Registered Architects I suppose, but I feel spontaneously that I would prefer to meet the Illegal ones.

3 Replies to “Sort-of-Registered Architects”

  1. Byron,

    Like yourself I’ve always been critical of the institutionalized governance and professional development bodies (such as NZRAB and NZIA) surrounding the practice of architecture in New Zealand, where I’ve always had a million and one reasons why one shouldn’t become registered as an architect.
    I think the annual practicing certificate issue you’ve highlighted is a clear example of this nonsensical bureaucracy where the idea of voluntary suspension makes a complete mockery of the whole idea of getting registered in the first place.

    However as someone who is going through the registration process right now, I feel that in some way one does gain a level of appreciation in terms of how important it is to understand the realities of legal frameworks within the building industry and the associated risks involved (which are a plenty) and aside from the issue you’ve raised, I generally have the view that registration has a positive role in the profession where it really is just another kernel in the multi-faceted corn cob that we call the ‘education of the architect’.
    Sure having registration isn’t necessarily going to make you a better designer, or creative thinker because that isn’t really its purpose.

    As much as I like the idea of clandestine guerilla architects illegally operating out of some mysterious jungle compound (which is my natural inclination), I also feel it’s worthwhile considering working subversively as a registered architect whilst retaining a creative/intellectual/experimental edge.
    I feel like there is still hope in having faith with the legal ones as much as the illegal ones.


  2. I think the blog entry here should be slightly reworded and sent to the NZRAB. Its full of great observations, and it’d be really interesting to see what their response is.

  3. In response to Barnaby

    ‘yea right’

    The NZRAB has little connection to the NZIA except to subcontract its CPD regime. The NZIA is a way more moribund institution that responds to its members only when prodded with a stick, and then usually only to squash the prodder. The idea of a response to anyone named Byron or from outside the fold is hilarious. More to the point why would someone who has the intelligence to recognise the value of no membership or association with the old mens and big practice club waste their talented time…

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